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Monday, Apr 15, 2024

Middlebury receives unrestricted gift of $40 million to the endowment

Middlebury has received an unrestricted donation to the endowment of $40 million from the estate of M. Brooks Michel ’55. The college announced the gift in an email to faculty, staff and students on March 1, stating that Michel’s donation is the largest bequest — a gift as a part of a will or trust — ever received by Middlebury and the second largest donation in the college’s history. 

“I am incredibly grateful for Mr. Michel’s belief in the transformative power of a Middlebury education, for what this gift means for Middlebury’s future, and to each of you for being part of the community that has earned this support,” President Laurie Patton wrote in the email announcing the bequest.

Valued at $40 million, the gift increases the overall size of the college endowment by nearly 3%, Associate Vice President for Advancement and Campaign Operations Jami Black wrote on behalf of the college finance office in an email to The Campus. As a part of the endowment, the principal amount of the donation will be conserved and then a portion will be spent each year. 

While the finance office did not define exactly how much of Michel’s gift will be drawn from the endowment each year, Middlebury’s endowment investment strategy states that no more than 5% of the endowment earnings will be spent in any given year. This policy is meant to ensure that Middlebury will have a permanent source of income, according to the finance office.

Michel directed his bequest to an unrestricted endowment, meaning that it is not required to be used to fund any specific department or project. Black wrote that a specific use for the donation has not yet been determined, but unrestricted dollars support the everyday student experience at Middlebury. 

“An endowed unrestricted fund provides crucial budget support for all of Middlebury’s immediate needs and expenses including financial aid and compensation for our faculty and staff,” she added. 

A member of the class of 1955, Michel believed in the power of a Middlebury education to address the challenges facing society, Patton stated in the announcement of the bequest. 

Michel was a Spanish major at Middlebury and spent his sophomore and junior years studying at the Middlebury School Abroad in Madrid. Following graduation, he spent time working for the U.S. Information Agency in Panama and Venezuela, before beginning a lengthy career as a simultaneous interpreter with fluencies in English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. 

Michel passed away in June 2023 at his estate in the Miami area. His family had long standing connections to Middlebury, beginning with his great-uncle Charles Andrew Munroe, who graduated in 1896. Munroe served as a trustee from 1929 through 1940 and made the construction of Munroe Hall possible by way of a $150,000 gift in 1939, according to the announcement of Michel’s bequest. 

Michel’s gift was originally received this past fall as a part of For Every Future: The Campaign for Middlebury, the college’s fundraising campaign aiming to generate $600 million by June 30, 2028. Falling under the Annual Giving pillar of the campaign, according to Black, the donation represents 9% of the $440 million total the college has raised thus far. 

Launched at the end of October, the fundraisingFor Every Future campaign plans to direct the money it raises toward the financial aid program, academic programs and student life at Middlebury. 

Michel’s bequest is the second largest donation ever received by the college, with the largest being the one-time donation of $50 million in flexible support from Jim Davis ’66 in the late 2000s. The donation went to financial aid, faculty support, athletics and unrestricted support, along with the Davis Family Library being named in his honor, Black wrote. 

Dan Courcey, vice president for advancement, described estate gifts as key to the growth and evolution of Middlebury. 

“Brooks Michel’s extraordinary bequest demonstrates the deep connections and the powerful, lasting impact a Middlebury education has on our alumni,” Courcey wrote in the gift announcement. “And, in turn, we experience every day how alumni can have a powerful, lasting impact on future generations of students.”

Maggie Reynolds

Maggie Reynolds '24 (she/her) is the Editor in Chief.  

Maggie previously served as the Senior Local Editor, a Local Section Editor, and a Staff Writer. She spent this past J-term interning for VTDigger, covering topics from affordable housing in Addison County to town government scandals. She also interned for Seven Days VT as an arts & culture reporter summer 2022 and as a news reporter for the Daily Gazette in Schenectady, NY summer 2021.   

Maggie is majoring in History and minoring in Political Science and Spanish. She was a three-year member of the Women's Swimming and Diving team. Maggie enjoys running, hiking, and iced maple lattes.